Commerce.gov is getting a facelift soon. See the new design.
Syndicate content

The Commerce Blog

BEA Computes that Rural America Personal Income Did Better than Urban America in 2009

Image of combine in a field (Photo: U.S. Census Bureau)

Guest blog post by Steve Landefeld, Director of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Off the top of your head, it probably seems obvious that the economies of America’s major cities differ structurally and behaviorally from our nation’s nonmetropolitan and rural areas, right? You are correct, indeed! But the really interesting question is, What can you learn about this from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis?  BEA measures our regional economies in several ways, including GDP by State, GDP by Metropolitan Area, State Personal Income, Metropolitan Area Personal Income and County Personal Income (AKA: Local Area Personal Income).

To understand the differences between the big, metropolitan areas and the rural parts of the country, your best bet is to turn to BEA’s Local Area Personal Income which details earnings in all 3,143 counties in the U.S.

Technically speaking, nonmetropolitan counties are those that are not part of a metropolitan statistical area, or MSA, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget.  Population in these counties is generally less than 50,000 people. There are 2,032 nonmetropolitan counties in the U.S., almost twice the number of metropolitan counties.  Of course, not all nonmetropolitan areas are rural, nor are all rural areas excluded from official designated metropolitan areas.  Another important consideration is commuting patterns, certainly plenty of Americans live in areas which may be rural, but drive into MSAs to work which intertwines these economies. (What, you thought we’d make it that easy?)

Largest-ever EDA Grant Helps To Revitalize Downtown Cedar Rapids & Create Jobs Following Iowa Floods

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank and Other Officials Break Ground on the Cedar Rapids Convention Center

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank joined U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, Mayor Ron Corbett and U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this week to see how federal funds are making a difference following historic floods that ravaged the city and its economy in 2008.

With the help of a $35 million grant–the largest Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has ever awarded –the city is building a new $75.6 million Convention Complex that will serve as a major catalyst for further economic development and investment in the city–creating hundreds of jobs and leveraging millions in private investment. The 435,000 sq. ft. complex will be the second-largest convention and events center in the state upon its completion in the spring of 2013.

Iowa continues to recover from the economic impact of the floods, which interrupted major manufacturing operations, devastated downtown commercial districts, and damaged or destroyed public infrastructure. The Obama administration continues to invest in rebuilding efforts to strengthen local economies across Iowa. More than $1 billion in federal assistance has been awarded to the state to support flood recovery efforts.

Prior to a groundbreaking ceremony for the complex, Blank and Fernandez visited Ovation Networks, a local wireless technology company that was displaced by the flooding in downtown Cedar Rapids. There they announced a new $2.9 million grant to the East Central Iowa Council of Governments to provide additional business assistance and gap financing to companies still recovering from the floods. Three years ago, the Council received $1.5 million from EDA, which they used to assist local businesses like Ovation Networks to rebuild and return to the downtown area.  |  Release  |  Convention Center remarks  |  Ovation Networks remarks 

Six Cities, Ten Days and Hundreds of Businesses

Sanchez is on a tour of a manufacturing facility

Guest blog post by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary for International Trade, International Trade Administration

From Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Albuquerque to Walnut Creek, I spent last week traversing the Southwestern United States talking to small businesses, textile manufacturers, exporters and rural communities about the positive impact exporting has on our economic stability and potential to put people back to work.

During this trip, I met with leaders from more than 150 businesses to discuss President Obama’s National Export Initiative and how important it is for small- and medium-sized businesses to expand their markets through exporting. I also reinforced the importance of leveraging the public-private partnerships that will foster investment, support communities and assist rural businesses to succeed, expand and create jobs.

In New Mexico, I spoke to businesses about the importance of the APEC economies, which have generated nearly 200 million new jobs and 70 percent of overall global economic growth during the past decade. APEC members increasingly represent the global economy of the 21st century.

Acting Secretary Blank Announces $1.5 Million Economic Recovery Investment in Louisiana on 6th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Map of Louisiana

U.S. Commerce Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank today announced a $1.5 million Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to the South Central Planning and Development Commission (SCPDC) of Houma, La., to expand emergency command center operations at the Regional Center for Economic Development and Innovation.

Six years after Hurricane Katrina descended on the Gulf Coast, leading to the devastation of parts of Louisiana, the Commission has developed a new permitting and code enforcement software system that enables digital imaging of buildings to allow city reviewers to electronically monitor buildings instead of having to track down and review paper plans, which hindered the city's ability to inspect buildings for structural damage after the hurricanes. Funding will support the new system, which will increase the efficiency of building inspections following disasters, speeding up the rebuilding process.

“The Obama Administration remains deeply committed to recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast and helping those affected rebuild their communities to be stronger and more resilient than ever before,” Blank said. “This EDA grant is just one of many ways this administration is helping to bring innovation and growth back to the Gulf to advance the region’s economic recovery.”

Gulf Coast communities have been hit hard in recent years, but Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have made significant progress toward recovery since President Obama took office, with help from agencies across the Federal government. The U.S. Commerce Department has invested millions of dollars to jumpstart economic and job growth in the Gulf and has accelerated efforts since President Obama took office. Release

Acting Commerce Secretary Blank Statement on Post-Hurricane Status of Commerce Department

Image of Commerce's Herbert Hoover headquarters with Washington Monument behind

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Department of Commerce (HCHB) facility was inspected and is open for employees to report to work on Monday, August 29, 2011. Federal employees should check with the Department of Commerce website www.commerce.gov or the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website www.opm.gov to obtain any information about leave and telework policies and any updates. For Commerce employees, the operating status phone lines are 202-482-7400 or 1-877-860-2329 and will be updated accordingly.

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Urges Hurricane Preparedness

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Irene (NOAA photo, Aug. 26)

As you know, Hurricane Irene is making its way up the East Coast of the United States. Make no mistake: This is a large and destructive storm and needs to be taken seriously, especially by the millions of people who live, work or travel in Irene’s projected path. 

Time is quickly running out for people to make emergency preparations and move out of harm’s way.

According to our meteorologists at Commerce/NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, Irene will approach the coast of North Carolina tonight, then move north and affect the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Irene is a large storm and its high winds and heavy rain will affect a large area. Hurricanes like Irene are capable of causing other serious and life-threatening hazards, such as coastal surges, inland flooding and tornadoes. 

We strongly urge all affected Commerce employees and their families to finalize their preparations, so that they can meet their basic needs for a minimum of 72 hours. Visit FEMA’s preparedness sites www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov for tips on how you can make an emergency kit and put an emergency plan in place.

To follow the latest on Hurricane Irene, please visit NOAA’s National Hurricane Center on the Web at www.nhc.noaa.gov/#IRENE and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NHC_Atlantic. Monitor local media or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments and check your local National Weather Service forecast at www.weather.gov.  We also encourage you to consult our Tropical Cyclone Preparedness Guide.

Moreover, please heed the direction of your local officials, and be sure to know your evacuation route in case evacuation orders are given. 

Should you need to seek higher ground or take cover, shelters in North Carolina and other states are being prepared along the East Coast. You can find more information about open Red Cross shelters at www.redcross.org

We’re ready. Please be ready, too.

Commerce and NOAA have been actively mobilizing: Our National Hurricane Center meteorologists have been issuing forecasts, watches and warnings to the media, emergency managers and the public. At the same time, we’re also preparing to respond if necessary to Irene’s aftermath when National Weather Service local forecast offices will issue a variety of severe weather alerts for inland high winds, flooding and severe weather, including tornadoes. 

The larger federal government family is aggressively preparing for two phases of this operation–response and recovery–and has teams and assets moving into all of the states/regions across the East Coast that will be impacted by Hurricane Irene. We are continuing to do everything we can to support the governors and their teams.

On a final note, I want to thank all the NOAA staff who have been working hard this week to ensure that Americans have the most accurate and timely storm updates, watches and warnings—as well as those who will be working through the weekend and coming days to see this storm through and assist in the response phase. Your service to Commerce and the nation is deeply appreciated.

High Tech in Rural America

Worker from PRO-TEC inspecting coated steel (Photo: PRO-TEC)

Guest blog post by Patrick D. Gallagher, Commerce's Undersecretary of Standards and Technology and Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

That’s right. Rural America is also high tech. From the plains of the heartland to the cattle lands of the West and the rolling hills of farmlands in the East, our smaller communities are home to high-tech businesses that help expand U.S. exports and provide high-skilled, high-paying jobs.

Today, I was honored to take a tour of one such company, PRO-TEC Coating Co. in Leipsic, Ohio, population 2,093. The company employs about 250 people in a state-of-the-art facility surrounded by corn and soybean fields in the northwest corner of the state.  A joint venture between U.S. Steel Corporation and Kobe Steel Ltd. of Japan, PRO-TEC manufactures ultra high-strength coated steel, primarily for the auto industry.  The company is currently constructing an advanced $400 million continuous annealing processing line with an annual capacity of 500,000 tons that will expand its current capacity by 50 percent and create new manufacturing jobs.

Acting Secretary Blank Tours Steel Facility in Warren, Ohio

 Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank Tours Thomas Steel in Warren, OH

Blank highlights Obama administration economic initiatives and new Commerce program designed to attract foreign investment, create jobs

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Warren, Ohio, today to tour Thomas Steel Strip Corporation, a member of the Tata Steel Europe Group and a manufacturer of cold-rolled strips usually used as steel casings for batteries. Thomas Steel employs more than 250 people.

After the tour, Blank discussed the importance of strengthening our education, infrastructure and innovation capacity as ways to rebuild our economic foundation, create jobs and enhance our global competitiveness. She also underscored the steps the administration has already taken to achieve these priorities–from investing in community colleges and funding transportation projects across the country, to launching the President’s National Export Initiative and pushing to shorten the time it takes to approve a patent. 

Blank also highlighted the significance of foreign direct investment (FDI), citing Tata Steel as an example of foreign companies whose investments the U.S. must attract more of to strengthen economic growth and job creation.  With FDI supporting more than five million American jobs, Blank discussed a new government-wide initiative, housed at Commerce–SelectUSA–which seeks to cut federal red tape for domestic and foreign investors, remove barriers to new investment and boost business growth in the United States. 

From Frozen Sheep Heads to Prairie Dogs, Rural Offices Help Exporters Compete

Winners of an ITA Export Assistance Center Excellence Award

Guest blog post by Carrie Bevis, intern in Commerce's International Trade Administration, Office of Public Affairs

Many of the U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs) are small offices that serve a wide territory mainly made up of rural communities. The specialists at these offices must be flexible, resourceful, and willing to accommodate the needs of a diverse clientele. Recently, three of them spoke with International Trade Update about their work: Carey Hester, director of the Missoula, Montana, USEAC; Cinnamon King, director of the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USEAC; and Heather Ranck, an international trade specialist in the Fargo, North Dakota, USEAC.

According to Ranck, the USEACs play a greater role in rural areas. “We become a precious resource to businesses because we can connect companies to resources that are perceived as distant, through our amazing network.” Hester added that “often, small rural companies are less familiar and less trusting of trade, thus requiring more dependence on their Commercial Service officer. We really have to sell the idea of exporting to these companies. I am the face of the federal government to a lot of the companies out here.”

Personal contact is very important, according to Ranck. “Our work with clients is very relationship based. You have to drive out to visit them, learn about their company, and build trust before you begin export assistance. A lot of our clients become our friends.”

EDA Promotes Economic and Job Growth in Rural America

August 24, 2011 - U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez, Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority Chris Masingill and Doug O'Brien, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, participate in White House Rural Council Roundtable in Pine Bluff, AR.

Guest Blog by John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development.

President Obama has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. He signed an Executive Order in June establishing the first White House Rural Council. The Administration has also set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, providing affordable health care, promoting innovation and expanding the production of renewable energy.  

Last week, as part of his three day bus tour, President Obama stopped in Peosta, Iowa to participate in the White House Rural Economic Forum, which brought together farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to accelerate hiring and spur innovation in rural America. The President has also announced a series of initiatives that leverage existing programs and funding to help small businesses and meet the critical needs in rural communities. In the coming weeks, the President will put forth additional proposals that will help put people back to work and give the middle class greater economic security. Promoting economic and job growth in rural communities is central to these goals.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has been investing to strengthen rural economic ecosystems for over four decades. Earlier this week, I traveled to Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas with Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) Chris Masingill and Doug O'Brien, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct project site visits and participate in White House Rural Council Roundtables in Houma and Bastrop, LA as well as Pine Bluff, AR. We heard from stakeholders in the region about how the federal government has and can be a better partner as we invest in rural economies.

On August 26, 2011, EDA will host a webinar to discuss best practices to promote rural small business development. White House Rural Council members Chris Masingill of DRA and Federal Co-Chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Earl Gohl will share best practices and successes with close to 400 participants.